A Little Progress

A quick post to update you on various things.

Zodiac Box 2012

My mother was discharged from the cardio ward in Shrewsbury three weeks ago, and transferred to Ludlow Community Hospital. She is likely to be staying there for some time yet. This makes visiting much easier for my father, and it’s a friendly atmosphere for her. So I am back to making twice-weekly visits on a country bus service which detours from the A49 through various towns and villages on the way. Stitching on the bus makes the long journey seem shorter, but the work needs to be fairly sturdy and shockproof. (Otherwise I spend too much time unpicking my progress when I get home.) My stitched boxes are ideal for travelling as the sections are easy to carry about and easy to see. I finished this one on the way back from Ludlow on Saturday.

It’s a design I’ve used several times before, with minor variations and with various colour schemes, and it is one of my favourites. The thread is acrylic DK knitting yarn for with Twilley’s Goldfingering for the glitter, and it’s worked on 10-mesh plastic canvas.

Here’s a work that’s still in progress:

Heartsease WIP 2

I’m currently working on a little rococo stitch pincushion top (probably a pincushion, it might be used for a needlecase or sachet instead). This is very portable, small enough for my handbag, but too intricate for stitching while on bus journeys. The fabric is not evenweave, I’m not sure of the fabric content but I suspect it is a polyester, or polyester-cotton, rather than linen. It’s rather pleasant to work on, whatever it is. It’s a open-weave fabric with a count of 33×38 – an oddment from a curtain and upholstery shop. That lack of evenness makes it ideal for old sampler designs like this, which look very much livlier when the warp and weft count are not the same. I’m using machine embroidery rayon 40 for this, with the  two roving strands in the twist separated and used together. (In many cases I’ve used one strand each from two different colours to make a blend.) Not the easiest of threads to work with, split like this, but it gives much better coverage on the rococo stitch than the thread used just as it comes from the spool. Here’s a chart for the heartsease flower, which is based on a motif on a spot sampler in the V&A museum.

Viola tricola  - rococo stitch chart

Talking of museums, Shrewsbury Museum service are still trying to find out more about the ownership of the Bowdler Picture before contacting the V&A. They’ve discovered that it came to them a few years ago, but whether it was a donation or a loan or just left with them for an expert opinion is still unknown. Investigations continue… My next major article on the blog will be a piece about some other objects from the museum collection – some old boots – and the story behind them.

Back on the embroidery front. I’ve got another long term project using chain stitch in silk thread on linen, based on a 16th century book illustration. It’s not portable enough for bus trips, hospital visits or wet lunchbreaks, so it’s growing very slowly at present. I’ll write more about it later, when the stitching is a bit further forward, but here’s a quick glipse of one of the figures to pique your curiosity. This chap looks as though he’s rather surprised to see me using something other than rayon thread or acrylic knitting yarn!

Curiosity WIP 1

Thanks for the very positive responses to my trellis stitch pages. Do let me know if there’s some other embroidery technique or stitch that you’d like me to tackle in depth for you. I enjoy a challenge!

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7 Responses to “A Little Progress”

  1. Hi Sue – been lurking for a while but I just have to tell you that your chain stitch figure there is amazing – despite a fairly heavy outline he doesn’t look clumsy or ill-defined at all. I’m glad to hear you use non-evenweave for counted stitches sometimes. I always thought I had to use (expensive) embroidery linen, until recently when I looked closely at photos of antique samplers in the books I own and realised I couldn’t find a single one that looked perfectly even. Thank you for posting the viola pattern – I’ve never tried queen stitch but this would be a great first project.

    • suetortoise Says:

      Well, there are very few ‘have to’s in embroidery, Nays! As you have found out, old, handwoven linen was rarely a perfect evenweave. It is often very fine, but the thread count in one direction is usually higher than the count in the other. If you copy those designs onto modern evenweave, especially the geometric paterns, sometimes they look a little bit dull for being ‘too square’.

      Having said that, good, modern evenweave fabric is designed for embroidery, with smooth, rounded threads, and is a delight to stitch on. If you are learning new counted thread stitches, then the appropriate evenweave embroidery fabric and embroidery threads are much the best place to start, to reduce the ‘unknowns’. And sometimes that evenness is exactly what I want. But I also have great fun trying out stitching on other fabrics with whatever thread takes my fancy. It doesn’t always work, of course, but even the failures usually teach me something.

      The chain stitch outline on the figure is done with two colours in the needle, which helps to soften the line and also make it a little more lively. One strand is a dark brown, the other a medium brownish-grey.

  2. Elmsley Rose Says:

    Non-evenweave making the piece look more lively – I can really see that! You spend an awful lot of time with nose up close to extant samplers/pictures, don’t you? 🙂
    Good to see The Man – looking great!

    • suetortoise Says:

      That’s me! I love figuring out thread counts, stitch size and so forth on (photos of) old samplers. I am often to be found armed with a ruler and a pin for counting, and wearing two pair of spectacles at once. (Yes, I do get the odd funny look.)

      • Elmsley Rose Says:

        I had noticed that – the the love of technical stitch figuring out-ering, that is, not the two pairs of spectacles! ~grin~

  3. Do you use linen fabric for embroidering upon? Where do you buy it from? And what do you use as rigid support for the boxes?

  4. suetortoise Says:

    I mostly use linen for embroidery, but the flower is on curtain fabric from a local fabric shop. The Darice plastic canvas I use for stitched boxes is rigid enough without extra support.

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